DAOs: A Good Fit for All

In the last 15 months deep-diving into decentralised orgs, I’ve noticed that they can be tough places for some people to feel at home in. As much as many of us have craved alternatives to pyramid orgs and centralised orgs for years, and are excited about decentralised coordination and cooperation, the reality of landing in a community where people self-select into roles and working groups, a ‘create your own journey’ experience, means that some people are falling through the cracks.

While we can set up onboarding support to help new members find their feet, as we’re doing here in the TEC - and a key aspect of my role as dOrg’s new Experience Facilitator (one of the main reasons my role was created) - once people are onboarded, the process is basically: ‘Go off and find a role you’d like to do or a group you want to work with; find the right fit and thrive, my friend’.

This works exceptionally well for some people, who leap straight into the mix, share their thoughts and ideas, and soon find a home in their new community.

For some people, however, this is the point where they lose touch with the community, meaning the community misses out on having these people as active members of the community, and they feel lost, and a bit bruised by the whole experience.

I’m hesitant to focus on extroversion versus introversion because the reality of fitting in to a DAO is much more nuanced than levels of introversion and extroversion, and these traits themselves are nuanced (I’m a classic extroverted introvert!); and, anyway, the problem isn’t justt ‘how can we make introverts feel at home’ (although that’s important) but: ‘how do we create numerous belonging pathways that work for all types of personality styles, information processing, and levels of social ease?’

Compared to other decentralised orgs, such as Enspiral for example, DAOs can be even tougher to settle in since many new members are also navigating a complex toolkit of new processes, tools, and arrangements.

Let me give you a specific example: In the last three weeks at dOrg we’ve onboarded 5 new members. Each of these members has a variety of skills in their fields, but not a single one of them has been a member of a DAO before, and most of them had limited experience with crypto. When talking them through their next steps are 1. looking through all of our project-focused Discord channels and approaching the Project Managers to see if they need help, and 2. attending our next dOrg-wide meeting to introduce themselves and share what kind of work they’re interested in, a couple of our new members seemed confident and eager to do that, two seemed a little unsettled, and one looked very concerned and uncertain.

My guess is that the last one is someone that I’ll have to give more time and support to, which I have no problem doing. And please don’t get me wrong: I see all the innovative and beautiful systems that DAOs - and the TEC in particular - are implementing to support new members and nurture a caring, people-oriented culture. Still, maybe we could be having more discussions about:

How do we better include all kinds of personalities, levels of social ease, and types of information processing?

Here are some examples of our current systems at TEC I’ve been noticing, and how they work better for certain people and not others:

We invite new members to jump into WG calls for the areas they’re interested in as a first step.
This can be difficult and not a perfect fit for some people: the groups can be quite large and the ‘rounds’ put the spotlight on people that might not want the spotlight on them.

Besides joining a main WG call, we currently don’t offer alternatives for settling into the TEC except for encouraging people to reach out to work on a task, often meaning that someone will be working on their own once the task’s been assigned - this doesn’t bring them firmly into the fabric of a community.

We also don’t have a norm of small groups self-organising from the larger WGs. Smaller teams can be really beneficial for engendering confidence and ‘landing’ in a new community, and work best for certain types of people. Some people find their feet best by diving early-on into a shared, specific task as part of a small group that meets regularly, since being useful and intimately connected to a few people can be some people’s preferred way of settling into a new community.

However, large groups are great for extroverted folk that are at ease socially and flourish being in that large group energy. There’s nothing wrong with that at all! I’m a classic extroverted introvert - I love it sometimes, and don’t others. But it’s very much suited to some people, and not to others.

Large WG circles, meeting once a week, as a main way to contribute can be unsettling for some people
I think I’m a pretty quick learner but I often find I spend most of the main calls trying to catch up with what’s happened before, understand the new tool that I haven’t come across before, and be useful by contributing something.

Again, small groups can be really useful for some people because they can deep-dive into one aspect and get to know that really well, happily leaving other aspects to other people. It can also increase confidence to know that they’re truly being useful by contributing in one particular way, instead of waiting for and then allocating themselves into tasks being shared by the steward, or by offering their thoughts on a subject they haven’t had much chance to learn about.

The TEC says that this is a space for anyone to start anything, but the reality is that it can be very tough for some people to do that in a new community, especially when they often don’t have the experience to know what’s needed or where they would be helpful, they don’t want to step on any toes, and where self-organising small groups aren’t the norm.

We don’t have clear expectations and agreements about WG meetings
Not having clear expectations and agreements, especially about decision-making, in WG meetings means that it’s tough to know what behaviours and input is welcomed, and what isn’t. I find that I often feel from responses in WG meetings that maybe I’ve said the wrong thing, or I was off-topic, or that it wasn’t the right place to ask a question. It might not be true, but without clearly shared expectations and agreements, it’s hard for some people to feel relaxed and to know that their input is welcome. Even when a steward is friendly!

A few months ago I shared an idea with Livia and Jess about setting up a DAO School with some members from Seeds and Hypha, which they gave their full support to, and we were due to start working on it when I got a notification that Stephen Reid and DAOHaus had one up and running. Which is great! If we can remove learning all the new tools and processes from arriving in and navigating a DAO for the first time, then it’s likely to make the arrival much easier. Plus it’s helpful for the entire DAO community, who now have better equipped new arrivals.

But perhaps there’s still something to a DAO Academy or DAO HR-type thing (as Nate was thinking), where we work with other DAOs to help them create multiple pathways within their DAOs and see how some simple changes could make an enormous difference to ensuring that people don’t fall through the cracks, and help place interested people in the DAOs that would best fit their interests and preferences.

The intention of this post is to:

  1. Spark a conversation. I’d love to know how this lands and to hear people’s thoughts and experiences.
  2. Spark off one of those small groups I’ve been talking about, under one of the main WGs (Gravity or Soft Gov seems the best fit), to explore this in more detail. I’m thinking at this point that a key starting point would be to experiment with how we can improve the DAO experience for the people that currently find it somewhat challenging here within the TEC.

:green_heart:

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Very good and accurate observation @MrsBadgerface A bit of org structure was on my wishlist when I first joined this space and DAO’s in particular, but through trial and error, I learned where my place is and how to orient in a community.

There’s certainly room for improvement on how we can onboard and guide new members, but the “Go off, find the right fit, and thrive” might not be a bad thing at all. Sometimes that’s a good filter for people who “think” they’re the right fit and belong here (or have different expectations), versus others who just do and learn on the go. Usually, I found those more valuable members in the long run.

I had a similar situation in another DAO where a person simply couldn’t understand how things are running in a DAO. Are we to blame? Maybe. But don’t we all feel a bit lost when joining a new organization? It takes a couple of weeks working full-time to get a bigger picture, and up to 8 months to fully understand how things are working in a larger organization.

DAO is certainly not a good fit for all, just like any other traditional organization might not be a good fit for someone. There will always be people who are only able to function in a strict hierarchy with clearly defined processes. There will also be others who are open, adaptive, and passionate about new technology or new types of organization and don’t get that much frustrated. I think those are the ones we want.

I don’t have a clear answer to all the problems but I think we should always be inclusive and use any opportunity to improve the decentralized aspect of our organization.

P.S. I didn’t touch on all points you mentioned, my intention was to continue this conversation and hear more stories from others.

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Thank you! You’re my first TEC forum response :dancer: I really appreciate your reflections, that you’re furthering this conversation, and will ponder on your perspective.

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Anna! I really loved this post. The Graviton training is trying to cover a lot of topics to improve the human experience in decentralized communities, so as we have talked, it would be a great opportunity to design and share a session about creating pathways for all. Its not a DAO school but its a good starting point to foster agency and helping everyone to fit in the space :smiley:

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Hey @markop

I’ve been letting your reflections and thoughts settle in. What I took away from your post was:

  1. It’s tough for everyone to join any kind of new organisation (or community).
  2. Being carefully onboarded and then entering an organisational system where everyone navigates their own path is a useful process of finding out whether someoe is a ‘right fit’ for us or not.
  3. Some people just cannot get their heads around how DAOs organise, and perhaps DAOs are therefore not a good fit for these people.
  4. There are many sorts of organisational (and community) design out there for everyone to find an organisation that they respond best to.
  5. The people we want in this community are those that have a specific attitude and perspective (open, adaptive, passionate) either about the tech or these new ways of organising, and we don’t want people that get intensely frustrated with feeling or being a bit lost when new.

Is that a fair reflection?

I wondered if you could share a bit more about what an ‘open’ person looks and feels like to you (or acts). I’m curious about what kind of behaviour you’re picturing here.

I wondered if ‘don’t we all feel a bit lost’ is actually a bit more nuanced. I had an interesting chat with @liviade yesterday and she was sharing that women seem to be a little slower at engaging in new environments. They’re more likely to take things step by step. Hearing that, I imagined the other side of that coin might be that men may be quicker in engaging, and perhaps that’s an interesting dynamic at play (gender).

I also wondered if we feel lost in different ways. I feel lost when I am not deep-diving into a piece of work for a community, when I don’t have ownership over a piece of work that I’m leading on or have responsibility for, when I join a large meeting of new people and I don’t have the background on what’s being discussed, when I get responses from people that leave me feeling a bit uncertain (and so on). Therefore, for me to not feel or be lost in an organisation, I need to find a path that enables me to take ownership or lead on a piece of work, to deep-dive into a piece of work, to join smaller meetings where I know what the background of what’s being discussed etc. I don’t need all of these, but I need at least one of them.

I imagine that we each have unique and specific ways of not feeling lost (and ways that we feel lost).

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Following on from that, I guess I’m approaching ‘a good fit’ as creating systems that have multiple pathways of contribution, autonomy, agency, team-work, coordination, and cooperation, so creating many ways of ‘right fit’.

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It’s an incredibly cool place to start, thank you! @natesuits When you have time, I’d love to work on this with you.

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Thank you so much @MrsBadgerface for presenting this topic to the Community. I think it strikes a chord for a lot of us. The fact is, we were all new to this space at one point in time and our current trajectory was probably maintained by the efforts of a few that empathized with our situation and guided us in understanding what its like to participate in a decentralized organization.

I am one of those individuals, and I’m very thankful to @liviade and @Tamara in particular as individuals who cared enough to onboard me within this community and provide guidance on how I can participate. It is not an easy task, but it is an extremely important one.

Before joining this community, I had attempted to join many other communities, attended my first conferences and engaged with different projects with no success at finding a pathway to actually participate. I’m not sure why I persisted, but I can’t escape the fact that it would have been very easy to give up on. The EthCC conference, the DAOist, and the TEC Unconference brought all these memories to the forefront of my mind once again, as I saw a handful of individuals who paid top dollar to attend the conference, sitting in the back of various talks completely alone, learning and desiring to engage with any of the many projects/teams that were so busy with their own agendas to even consider looking out for newcomers in the space. I was that person.

If DAO’s are going to be truly accessible to the public then they need to have a method of onboarding, and a common space by which to learn how the industry works and how to navigate the ever expanding ecosystem of DAO’s with different use-cases and human capital needs/requirements.

I do believe a DAO should be developed around this cause, and it should seek the support of the entire industry. @MrsBadgerface and I had a great discussion around this during the TEC Unconference and I believe we can start putting things into motion around the concept of an HR DAO (a place where newcomers can learn about everything decentralized, identify their incentives for participating, and help guide them to the right DAOs where they have the best fit). I think this could work like an Indeed or decentralized Job posting DAO, where DAOs can look for individuals/teams to help with their efforts. Perhaps we can get a coalition of onboarding teams from different DAOs to help get this rolling, and perhaps set up a proposal for grants/funding to develop it.

Within the TEC, this matter is extremely important and one that I would like to see us start developing metrics around. I know that I directed probably 10+ individuals to our Discord channel during the Paris conferences and I know that @Suga and @vegayp have reached out to those individuals. It would be amazing to see a huge amount of those individuals start to attend community calls, etc.

With that being said, I must ask if we are adequately ‘staffed’ ourselves to handle this, as newcomers require a lot of attention and hand-holding at the beginning. This is worth the time, and maybe we can look into how onboarding is structured so that we could possibly establish a Mentor program within the TEC, where Contributors, Stewards, and SME’s could be assigned as a mentor where they meet up with newcomers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and answer questions, guide them, or provide general advice throughout their journey within this industry.

I’d be extremely happy to help in this pursuit, and I would REALLY love to see the equivalent of a Mentor program for the TEC community as a good first step.

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@natesuits Can’t wait to dive in and start exploring all of this in more detail with you! All those different avenues/possibilities :slight_smile:

I like this idea of building an on-ramp economy for moving people into DAOs. Over the next few years, it’s going to be increasingly important that society has a smooth pathway for ordinary people to easily join this wonderfully complex new world. It’s a classic commons problem; something that would benefit all DAOs but is probably hard for any single one to pull off by itself.

As someone who is walking across this bridge right now, I can say that for me the biggest obstacle is knowledge. It’s the initial attractor to a community like this. Really good educational material is not easy and I think it would be important to bring in some folks from the MOOC world (if they aren’t already here in the TEC community today). There are all kinds of powerful peer-mentoring possibilities too, ways to decentralize the learning. I see this as kind of a DAO academy function.

You’re absolutely right though that the HR function is also critically important - and a powerful way to drive an economy. These two missions generate a lot of synergy too. I could see them being separate missions, and, I could see them coming together in a joint on-ramping mission.

Thanks, @MrsBadgerface and @natesuits for spotlighting this. I’m right in the middle of this on-ramp process, so it’s very much front-of-mind to me right now.

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Thanks, @MrsBadgerface. I see myself as joining in this subject as well, and you and I have talked about some of these things together as well. I will have more time to devote to these topics soon. As you know, I am in transit with family for some weeks this summer and have also had some extenuating circumstances in the last weeks (forest fire evacuation for example!), but I’ll be back soon! :slight_smile:

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Yes! These are such overlapping themes. Was looking to bring them up when you’re back and us onboarders can meet up and talk things through. Enjoy your holiday till then and look forward to diving into it with you when you’re back in the hood.

Thank you so much for your thoughts!

Yes! One thing I love about DAOs is there inter-relationality. And I think you’re right - perhaps there’s two separate missions here that could weave together.

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Fantastic Article and Equally Fantastic Responses

My first day inside TEC and I have a lot to search out and learn

I would happily enter a TEC - Watch, Learn, Participate - Entry Level Program where I am participating within a Small Group and contributing to a TEC based Entry Level Challenge, based on my Skillset, Personality Type, Available Time, etc with a view to using such a Program as a means for me to become more familiar with the TEC Ecosystem

Generally, I think most people want to Feel Useful and that they are contributing in some way, as the Starting Point and once they take off their TEC Training Wheels. within reason, most people should be able to elevate and gravitate from there, towards an area within TEC Ecosystem, that captures their Interest and Imagination.

Exciting times and all we need is enough Time, Hard Work and Good Luck to change the World for the Benefit of 7.8 Billion People

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Thank you for your thoughts @GCF. And welcome to the community! @Suga some interesting ideas here to add to an onboarding team call.

@GCF In case you didn’t know, we hold onboarding calls at 6pm CET every Wednesday. You’re also welcome to reach out to anyone in Discord with the tag @orientationcoordinators and introduce yourself, sharing more about what you’re interested in. We’ll then try and find you the best next steps for you.

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Hi @MrsBadgerface and sorry for late response.

Yes, it is a fair reflection on my thoughts.

What I meant by an “open person” is someone who is willing to try new things out, overcoming and tolerating all the hurdles along the way, someone stepping outside their comfort zone and accepting sometimes radical change in the ways of working.

That being said, we shouldn’t simply give up on those who need handholding and who need more time overcoming those hurdles (because there still are many), everyone should be given a chance (and they are!) to be part of a new type of organization (just like any traditional) and appreciate their learning curve and all emotions that they experience on their path. As long as they show goodwill to continue!

Great point on the individuals’ difference in perception of “feeling lost”. In my case, it is pretty similar to your feeling, but in other cases, it might be something different that we as a community need to recognize! There’s no “one fits all” solution. I see much SoftGov and Onboarding play a big role here, but also it is up to all individuals of any community to assist, and I think this comes with the Culture of the community.

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It’s interesting. I think we’re having the same discussion but we’re entering it from a slightly different perspective.

When I wrote the original post, I was separating out the needs of new joiners overall (many of who do need some kind of handholding, even when they’re an open person as you describe them), and creating options for all kinds of learning types and personality types to find their long-term fit. And we do that second part (I believe) by focusing on organisational design, information pathways, different working preferences, diversity, and inclusion.

There are two steps for ‘being’ in a community: 1. The phase of joining (or onboarding), where you get to ‘be’ a new member; and 2. The long-term ‘being a community member’ that starts when onboarding has been completed, where you get to ‘be’ a TEC member, and the handholding (if you took the offer of it) has ended. It’s this second phase that I’m particularly interested in because we now have an onboarding focus, but we haven’t had a focus on the second step.

(And there is probably a third step, where someone is leaving a community, but that’s a discussion for another time!)

Yes, absolutely, culture helps! But, it seems to me, without the focus on org. design, information pathways, different types of working preferences that can best suit different personality styles, culture can only do so much. One size definitely does not fit all - and my experience of my time here in the TEC is that it has been leaning slightly towards ‘one size fits all’.

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I understand. Pathways are something I thought we’d solve with Working Groups, directing people to their interest and then letting Stewards take it from there.
Those pathways also start with the onboarding because that’s where you guide new members in the direction of their most interest.